What is Taking a Stand?

December 18, 2017

What is Taking a Stand?

In previous posts, I have discussed situations where taking a stand was an option. Whether it was trying to get a fair division of holidays (Intro), confronting a jerk boss (Power), refusing to maintain a lie (Lying), or trying to challenge groupthink (Groupthink), there can be times when you feel the need to speak up.

Let’s do an example of what taking a stand might look like.

What taking a stand looks like

Amanda is your boss and you both work for an accounting firm. You are a Chartered Accountant as is she. Amanda comes into your office.

Amanda: Ryan, I thought we discussed the Sanderson account.
You: Yes, I know, but I just couldn’t find a way to not report the loss.
Amanda: Oh, put it in a footnote, for god’s sake.
You: I can’t do that!
Amanda: Well do something. The client doesn’t want to highlight the loss.
You: (a deep breath) Amanda, I know it’s important to please the client, but I just can’t do this.
Amanda: Ryan, we’ve discussed your inflexibility before and I’ve had about all I can take.
You: I’m sorry, Amanda, I’d like to accommodate the client, but I just can’t.
Amanda: Right, well transfer the files to me.

Why this is a good confrontation

You might be wondering how I can say this is a good confrontation as Amanda took the work away from You and it’s possible that might not be the end of it.

But You did a whole lot of things right:

  • You clearly had tried to avoid the confrontation as Amanda mentions that you have already discussed it. If you can do that and keep your self-respect, it’s probably worth trying.
  • You didn’t allow it to turn into a screaming match. You kept cool.
  • Your words continued to be respectful. In particular, you didn’t say anything like, “We accountants have a professional obligation…” True, of course, but Amanda already knows that and reminding her of it does nothing to resolve the situation.
  • You didn’t react to her ‘inflexibility‘ comment. Reacting could only descend into a no-I’m-not, yes-you-are thing.

I understand if you don’t feel happy with the outcome but it’s important not to confuse taking a stand and winning.

Taking a stand isn’t about winning

In a perfect world, not only would Amanda understand your point but would apologize for putting you in an awkward position, and do what’s necessary to address your objection. News, she already understands your point, knows you are in an awkward position, and wants you to make the problem go away.

In most circumstances, if you can, you want to follow her orders. The exception is, as in this case, when doing so offends your values or your self-respect. And I’m talking in a big way—not just that she never says good morning.

Then the objective moves away from winning, or compromising (half-hiding the loss?), or keeping things harmonious. It becomes about staying true to yourself.

It takes courage and resolution to speak up. It isn’t necessary for the other person to agree. In this case, the win is speaking up.

Having said that, when to do it, how to do it, and the likely consequences are important considerations. I’ll cover these in future posts but first, I might want to show you when taking a stand goes awry.

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